Millions more COVID jabs to reach vaccination hubs 'within days’ as government aims for ‘massive acceleration’

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4 min read
Nurse May Parsons (R) administers the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to Margaret Keenan (L), 90, at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, on December 8, 2020 making Keenan the first person to receive the vaccine in the country's biggest ever immunisation programme. - Britain on December 8 hailed a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it begins the biggest vaccination programme in the country's history with a new Covid-19 jab. (Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jacob King has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: Pictures were taken on [December 8, 2020] instead of [December 9, 2020]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Margaret Keenan becomes the first member of the public to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry in December. (Getty)

The government is set to bolster its COVID vaccine programme by reportedly shipping out millions more jabs to vaccination centres within days.

According to The Times, some 2 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, first given to grandmother Margaret Keenan in December, will be distributed, having initially been held back for booster shots.

It comes after Boris Johnson announced his intention for the 13 million most vulnerable people to be given the jab by 15 February.

Around 1.3 million people in the UK have already received the first dose of the vaccine, while seven mass vaccination centres – including at at sports stadiums and exhibition centres – are set to open next week.

Watch: Boris Johnson outlines vaccination programme ahead

The government is under pressure to ramp up its vaccination programme after a third national lockdown was introduced on Tuesday.

Some 5 million finished doses are still waiting final safety checks and approval, but COVID vaccine deployment minister Nadim Zahawi said there will be a “massive acceleration” in numbers vaccinated in the coming days.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/01/04: People queue at NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre in London as cases of the virus continue to soar. (Photo by Thomas Krych/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People queue at an NHS COVID vaccination centre in London as cases of the virus continue to soar. (Getty)

He told Sky News: “I’m confident that as we begin to deploy and get more sites operational – I talked about the hospitals, the GPs, the community pharmacies and the national vaccination centres – so we will be at over 1,000 sites vaccinating.

“I’m confident you will see, certainly from 4 January to 11 January, a real step up.

“So we’ve done over 1.3 million [vaccinations] since 8 December, you’re going to see a massive acceleration of that.”

When asked if more than 2 million people needed to be vaccinated a week to reach the mid-February target of vaccinating almost 14 million people, Zahawi added: “You’re going to see that increase – the NHS have got a very clear plan.

“We’ve got a fantastic team working, seven days a week, all hours to deliver this.

“No doubt, it is a stretching target. But I think it’s one that we should absolutely look to deliver.”

Zahawi said 99% of COVID deaths can be reduced by vaccinating people in the nine categories listed by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Britain's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson attends a news conference in response to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street on January 5, 2021 in London, England. As the UK records over 60,000 new cases in one day of Covid-19 for the first time and 830 daily deaths, the Prime Minister takes questions from the press. Johnson announced yesterday that England would enter a third national lockdown to try and curb the spread of the virus. (Photo by Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson announced the government's intention to vaccinate 13 million people by 15 February as he introduced a third lockdown. (Getty)

When asked how long it would take to give jabs to those groups, Zahawi said: “I’m very hopeful that by the spring we will get through the nine categories.”

While setting out the ambitious steps, Zahawi accepted that the target to get almost 14 million people vaccinated by next month is a “stretching target” but he was confident it would be delivered.

Describing the vaccine programme as a Herculean effort, Zahawi said it included setting up vaccine hubs at community and independent pharmacies.

OXFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04 88-year-old Trevor Cowlett receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford as the NHS increases its vaccination programme with 530,000 doses of the newly approved jab available for rollout across the UK on January 4, 2021 in Oxford, England.  (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Trevor Cowlett, 88, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. (Getty)

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth pressured the government to role out the vaccination programme further.

He tweeted: “Community Pharmacy already deliver flu jabs, are respected and trusted by local people.

“As well as GPs, community pharmacy should be mobilised everywhere to meet the vaccine challenge.

“We need to go further and faster on vaccination. There isn’t a moment to lose.”

Professor Nilay Shah, from Imperial College London, described the government’s aim as an “ambitious target and needs everything to click every day”.

Shah said to vaccinate the top four priority groups with two doses of the vaccine by the government’s target would require 400,000 doses a day for seven days a week.

He added: “If the aim is for the first dose for the top four priority groups by mid-February, then we would need to hit 200,000 doses a day, again this is achievable but everything needs to go right every single day.”

Shah said that the programme was “still in the ramp-up phase” and the levels to dose over 13 million people “are several times higher than those achieved in peak influenza vaccination”.

However, he added that the levels “in principle are achievable with additional resources and effective co-ordination”.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown